Gibson launches Murphy Lab 1959 Les Paul Standard limited run reissues with Brazilian rosewood 'boards and Tom Murphy exclusive finishes – in a vintage market running hot, is $20k good value?

Gibson 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue Limited Edition Murphy Lab Aged With Brazilian Rosewood Cherry in Murphy Burst
(Image credit: Gibson)

Gibson has turned over a consignment of Brazilian rosewood from the archive to Tom Murphy for a special run of six stunning 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard reissues, each aged in the Murphy Lab with six finishes developed by the man himself.

A US-exclusive, owing to CITES regulations, and limited to 50 units of each model, these are described by Gibson as “the ultimate 1959 Les Paul Standard reissues”, and at $19,999, you would hope so. 

That price tag makes this news story of particular interest to the one per cent and the serious collectors of this world, but you can bet these will sell like hot cakes. With that in mind, there is a strong case to be made that these actually offer great value to the aspiring collector at a time when the vintage market is almost prohibitively expensive to most players. 

A pristine 1959 Les Paul Standard was sold at auction by Julien’s last week for an eye-watering $585,000. For that money you could buy 29 of these and have change leftover for a PRS 10-Top, y’know, just as a runaround for local pub gigs.

The Murphy Lab series was always described by Gibson has being the acme of time-capsule electric guitar design. These were investor-grade guitars, made in limited numbers, in a Custom Shop enclave overseen by one of the most-respected luthiers on the planet. 

These ’59 Les Paul Standard reissues are designed and built in the same spirit. And the are considerably cheaper than, say, a Toyota Camry, one of the most-popular automobiles in the US, which circa $26,000 starts depreciating as soon as you drive it off the lot.

It’s all a matter of perspective. What is a guitar worth? As Joe Bonamassa will tell you, it’s worth what someone is willing to pay for it. There is also some evidence to suggest there is a consumer surplus here, even at twenty grand.

So what do you get for your dough? Well, these stick as close to the original recipe as possible. Stopping short of sending Mr Murphy through the ether in a DeLorean, this is as good as you get in terms of a 1959 Les Paul Standard rolling off the production line.

Gibson 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue Limited Edition Murphy Lab Aged With Brazilian Rosewood in Murphy Burst

(Image credit: Gibson)

There is of course the aforementioned Brazilian rosewood, which is a holy grail spec option for the fingerboard – it is the first time we’ve had Brazilian on a Murphy Lab ’59 Les Paul Standard. Each of these guitars has a AAAA-figured maple top that has been squirrelled away for this special run.

The pattern on these tops is positively three-dimensional. The tops are paired with lightweight mahogany bodies. Single-ply Cream Royalite binding has been applied to the guitars’ tops and fingerboards.

The finishes themselves are a work of art, each with a vintage-inspired colour that was developed by Murphy. Hence they all bear his name. Gibson calls this Murphy’s “Magnum opus”; you could think of it also as his own super-primo signature guitar range.

There are all kinds of classic LP finishes here. There is Tom’s Lemon Burst, Tom’s Dark Burst (our favourite), Tom’s Tea, Tom’s Cherry, Tom’s Tri-Burst, and available exclusively from Gibson USA there is the Murphy Burst.

The mahogany necks have been shaped in ‘50s Rounded Medium C profiles, and are joined to the body with hide glue and a long tenon. The frets are authentic medium-jumbo and are counted out by the aged-cellulose nitrate Trapezoids. 

For pickups, we have a pair of zebra-coiled Custombuckers, which feature an Alnico 5 magnet and are unpotted. These are hooked up in traditional style to their own volume and tone controls, which feature 500K CTS audio taper pots, and paper-in-oil capacitors.

As for hardware you’ve got an ABR-1 Historic Reissue bridge with nickel-plated brass saddles, a lightweight aluminium Stop Bar tailpiece on all the models except the Tri-Burst, which is fitted with a Bigsby B7 vibrato. 

The mere mention of Cellulose Acetate Butyrate should be enough to make the cork-sniffer’s credit card anxious. Even the Lifton guitar cases have been aged. Nice. For more details, head over to Gibson

Gibson 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue Limited Edition in Tom's Dark Burst

(Image credit: Gibson)

This has been a big week for Gibson and high-end electric guitar news. On Tuesday, the Nashville-based guitar brand debuted the Adam Jones Flying V Collector's Edition, which was developed with the Tool guitarist and features the Futura-style split headstock. It, too, is priced $19,999.

It has also been the week when some of that Gibson Custom Shop luxury came to Epiphone as the Kirk Hammett 'Greeny' 1959 Les Paul Standard was finally launched. Featuring Greenybucker pickups and a long tenon, it has been played onstage by the Metallica lead guitarist.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.